Judge Pat Maguire says the 198th District Court is a “court of general jurisdiction” covering Kerr and Bandera counties. That means he will be dealing with both civil and criminal cases, covering just about every kind of dispute that needs to be resolved in a court. Civil cases arise out of disputes between two or more private parties, like “Smith v. Jones.” Criminal cases involve someone who is on trial for breaking the law, and are like “The State of Texas v. Jones.”
“The private parties in a civil case may be persons, organizations, and sometimes government,” he says. “The party who starts the lawsuit becomes the plaintiff, and the other party the defendant. The role of the court, and ultimately the judge, is to decide what the rights of each party are, and issue a court order. Penalties assessed can be monetary damages, where the responsible party has to pay for harm they caused. The court can also provide injunctive relief, an ‘injunction’ ordering a party to do something, or refrain from doing something.”
Criminal cases are different, Maguire says. A district court handles felonies, the more serious crimes. That process typically starts when a law enforcement officer discovers an offense, and turns the findings over to the district attorney. If the DA determines a crime has been committed, and has a defendant identified, they go to one of the judges.
“As a judge I review and sign warrants requested by the DA,” Maguire says. “That includes arrest warrants, search warrants for property, and blood warrants in cases where the defendant may be intoxicated.
“Once the warrants have been served, and the defendant is in custody, I conduct an ‘arraignment.’ There we fix the identity of the defendant, making sure they are the person listed in the warrant, and require them to enter a plea, “guilty” or “not guilty.” If the defendant cannot afford to hire legal representation, I arrange for a court-appointed attorney. I usually set bail, which the defendant pays as a guarantee that they will return for trial, and set the conditions for release from jail. Those might include a curfew, or limits on where the defendant can go. They might be prohibited from going to a bar, or in some cases going where children congregate.
“There the process splits,” Maguire says. “Many cases are resolved when the defendant decides, with the advice of their lawyer, to accept a ‘plea bargain.’ They plead guilty in return for a specified sentence, instead of gambling that a jury is likely to give them a harsher sentence.”
He says, “The judge’s next responsibility is to empanel a grand jury. Almost every month, I summon a group of ordinary citizens, and select 12 of them, nine jurors and three alternates, to sit on the jury. The DA brings each case to that jury, and presents the evidence. The grand jury doesn’t determine if the defendant is guilty or innocent. Instead, they take one of two actions, based on their ‘reasonable belief.’ If they find there isn’t enough evidence to establish ‘probable cause’ that the defendant needs to stand trial for the offense, they ‘no-bill,’ and the case is over with. But if there is enough evidence, the grand jury issues a ‘true bill of indictment,’ and the case goes to trial.
Next Maguire says the judge sets the pre-trial scheduling order, fixing the date of the pre-trial hearing, the status conference, and initial trial discovery. During “discovery” the defendant’s attorney is entitled to see all the evidence and witnesses the DA intends to present to the jury. Then the judge oversees selecting a trial jury, and the DA and the defendant’s attorney argue their cases.
“Criminal trial procedures are similar in misdemeanor cases, and the felony cases I hear,” Maguire says. “My role is to make sure the trial is conducted according to laws and procedures in the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure for criminal cases, and the Texas Rules of Civil Process for civil trials. In a way, I’m the ‘referee’ over the trial, except that, unlike referees in sports, I can’t ‘throw flags.’ If one of the attorneys makes an error, it’s up to the other attorney to object. The focus of a trial is on the parties involved, the judge has to stay in the background.”
Maguire says he has aspired to be a district judge for 25 years. “I made friends with Rebecca Curry at Tivy High School, and when I was finishing law school worked as an intern with her husband Bruce Curry. That was sort of my ‘residency’ in the law. There I met Lucy Wilke, who is now the 216th District Attorney, and she lit a spark in me for trial work. Early on, when I was observing my first trial in the Bandera Courthouse, Judge Steve Ables came down off his bench and warmly greeted me. I knew then I wanted to be a judge in a courtroom in the Hill Country.”
He says he was born in Baltimore, Mary. To Mark and Marilyn Maguire. Marilyn was from Hondo, and in 1985, when Maguire was 14, Mike retired from the Navy and they moved to Kerrville. While Maguire was in Peterson Middle School and Tivy, Marilyn went to Schreiner University and became an LVN, then worked at the Veterans Administration Medical Center until she retired.
“I got to know Tara Maloney in the Tivy Theater Arts program,” Maguire says. “But we got close when she was my lab partner in Mr. Goetzel’s physiology and anatomy class. We had to dissect frogs, and she didn’t want to touch them. We started dating, like going out to float at Brink’s Crossing, near the end of our senior year. We graduated in 1990, and I went to University of North Texas and she went to Texas Christian University, which is semi-long-distance. I started classes at Texas Tech Law School, while she came home to plan a wedding. I came in just in time to get my tux, we were married in Kerrville First United Methodist Church Thursday, Oct. 1, 1994, and I was back in class on Monday. We had our honeymoon over Christmas break.”
Maguire says with Bruce and Lucy as mentors, including watching a death-penalty trial, he was prepared when he took a position with the Bexar County DA’s Office April of 1998. But he and Tara didn’t want to raise their children in San Antonio, so in January of 2000 Maguire returned to Kerrville as a civil associate attorney for Bill Arnold.
“I learned about civil law there, while I also did court-appointed criminal defense work. From 2003 to 2006 I partnered with Harold Danford, Rex Emerson, and Elsa Bailey, and in 2007 I went out on my own. I also became a part-time Kerrville Municipal Judge in 2003, and served there until I ran for district judge.”
He says, “In a rural area like the Hill Country it was never my intention to run against a sitting judge, so when Judge Emerson announced he was going to retire it was the perfect opportunity. I filed, and found out running an election is an eye-opening process. I discovered there’s a real disconnect with the public on what a district judge does, but at least in rural areas everybody knows the judges and attorneys. I have a lot of faith, and I figured if God wanted me there, it would work out. As it turned out, I didn’t draw an opponent. Back when I was a new attorney I made my first courtroom plea before Judge Ables, and I was very honored Jan. 1 when he swore me in as the 198th District Judge.”
He says he and Tara have three children. Brady is a junior and Kate a freshman, both at Texas A&M, and Jack is a Tivy High School junior. “It was a good decision to raise them in Kerrville.”
Tara was born in New Jersey, but her parents, Bill and Carol Maloney, moved to Kerrville when she was five. Her brother, Eric, is now the Kerrville Fire Department Chief.
Maguire says, “One of my earliest ‘legal’ lessons came as a kid, when during summers I went back to Massachusetts to work for my grandfather, Norris Fridinger. I was goofing off one day, got caught and sent home, and lied to get out of it. That got my foreman in trouble with my grandfather. When they began arguing, I had to confess, and my father forgave me. Later, during a real break, Dick Goldring, the Black porter I had gotten in trouble, told me, ‘If you work hard, and are honest, you will go far.’”
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